Tuesday, June 3, 2014
David Barnhizer (Cleveland State), Of Rat Time and Terminators:
About twenty years ago Canadian scientists used a community of rats living in a glass cage to determine the effects of population growth within a finite system. As long as the rat population remained relatively low and resources were sufficient, the rats behaved well. But rats breed rapidly. As the population inside the closed system grew but the total food available stayed relatively constant, the per capita resources shrank. The rats exhibited increasingly aggressive behavior, including savagery and cannibalism. Eventually the population fell to a level that once again allowed the rat version of civility to emerge. When rat time hits and the population of a finite system begins to exceed the resources needed for basic sustenance, it is silly to expect rats -- or lawyers -- to behave civilly. When the rat population reaches extremely high levels, mother rats had better lock their doors and hide the little rats.
A version of rat time is being created within the legal profession as law schools pump 40,000 graduates a year into a saturated system. Understanding our present condition as a period of rat time can help us diagnose the problems of the legal profession, identify the future responsibilities of law schools and the profession, and create more effective solutions than the bandaids that have been proposed or applied thus far. This is particularly important because lawyers and law schools have lost their way. They are afraid to address their most troubling problems and to take the principled actions necessary for meaningful reform.